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Family ties: Kerestine follows father’s legacy to North Texas

Family ties: Kerestine follows father’s legacy to North Texas

jackie courtesy Facebook

Family ties: Kerestine follows father’s legacy to North Texas
September 17
00:23 2015

Alex Lessard | Staff Writer


As the sun set on Oct. 28, 2011, the Denton sky was illuminated with shades of purple and pink. The Sun Belt conference championship was to be decided by the final game of the season, a home matchup against Denver University.

With dozens of her family members filling nearly two full rows of bleachers, then-freshman goalkeeper Jackie Kerestine watched the Mean Green score the lone goal of the game and take the conference crown. At that moment, reality sunk in.

North Texas was exactly where she was meant to be all along.

“I never intended to go here just because we were so familiar with it,” Kerestine said. “My uncle used to live right down the road. We’d go there for barbecue. I always figured college to be a new experience, unfamiliar territory. Finally, I said ‘This is perfect.’”

Junior goal keeper Jackie Kerestine

Jackie Kerestine

North Texas has provided a home for members of the Kerestine family for decades. Jackie’s parents, Paul and Diane Kerestine, were raised in Denton and met in high school before heading to college together, when North Texas was still North Texas State University. Paul’s mother had eight siblings that all went to North Texas, keeping a tradition alive that dates back to Paul’s grandfather.

Paul grew up on Willowwood Street in Denton, just half a mile away from the current Mean Green Soccer Complex. After getting recognition across the country as a nose guard for his high school football team, Paul had plenty of collegiate options.

But when Paul was making his final choice, one factor made choosing North Texas an easy decision.

“My body was breaking down. I knew I wasn’t going to be playing pro,” Paul said. “I really wanted my mom and dad to be able to watch me play.”

Paul became a starter his sophomore season and lettered in 1978 and 1979. Similar to now, North Texas athletes lived in student housing. Paul and the rest of the football team lived on the second floor of Kerr Hall, which remains one of the most populated residence halls on campus over 35 years later.

“I’ve seen [Denton] transition from a small town,” Paul said. “I remember when this town didn’t even have a McDonald’s.”

Numerous shoulder injuries derailed Paul’s college career, so Paul began working for his father before graduating. After the couple married, Diane began her career as an elementary school teacher. They went on to have three kids, all of which played sports growing up.

From gymnastics and cheerleading to soccer and wrestling, the Kerestine family kept busy year round, especially with Jackie. Although Jackie was a first baseman for the softball team at Colleyville Heritage High School and threw shot put in track and field, her comfort zone always remained with soccer.

Houston Baptist vs Mean Green Soccer

Jackie Kerestine, middle, celebrates with the North Texas soccer team after a win against Houston Baptist on Aug. 23, 2013. Courtesy | North Texas Athletics

Paul said most of his spare time was spent driving back and forth to all of Jackie’s various practices and games, something he and Diane still do today. They travel to every game she plays in, home and away, including a nine-hour drive to El Paso last fall.

When Jackie faced the same decision Paul made nearly over 30 years prior, giving back to her parents was the number one priority.

“With all the time they put in getting me to these places, I wanted to be able to reward them so they can watch and see how it helped me grow,” Jackie said. “It was very important to me that they would be able to see me play wherever I went.”

Growing up, Jackie was always one of the tallest kids on the team. Her height caused a number of universities, many of them on the East Coast, to invite her for campus visits.. When it came to North Texas, Jackie didn’t meet head coach John Hedlund until she sent out highlight tapes as a junior in high school.

Once she visited the school, her decision was made.

“We had to bring her up here and we had to sell it, our facilities, our tradition,” Hedlund said. “Once we were able to do that and she had the opportunity to play in front of her family and friends for four years, it became a lot easier.”

In addition to being close to home, Jackie had the opportunity to become the starting goalkeeper with the Mean Green as a freshman. That season, she allowed only 14 goals and nine shutouts as the team finished with a 14-4-3 record.

Even with her track record, Jackie said she used to underestimate her ability.


Jackie Kerestine File Photo | North Texas Daily

“I never had the intention of playing college soccer because I didn’t know if I could make it,” Jackie said. “Once I was grown up and realized I wanted to, it flipped.”

Jackie’s passion for soccer was tested after suffering a major injury her freshman year of high school. Instead of sitting on the sidelines at practice after classes, she would go home to her family. When she finally recovered, Paul said she had a different fire burning and has had it ever since.

That fire was re-lit after a season-ending injury just four games into her sophomore season at North Texas. Since then, Jackie has plastered her name all over the Mean Green record books. She now holds nearly every school goalkeeping record, including saves (309), wins (54), and shutouts (36).

“I saw Jackie from an early age be at a top level, and she played pretty competitive soccer,” Paul said. “So I had an idea that she was pretty good.”

Featured Image: Courtesy | Jackie Kerestine’s Facebook

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